Stephen F. Austin State University

Henry Kissinger at Camp Claiborne (August 2016)



During the Louisiana Maneuvers and World War II many famous officers and enlisted personnel were stationed here in Louisiana. But there was one who came to Camp Claiborne and throughout our area who would become one of America's greatest statesmen. This slender tousled haired young private who would one day be the Secretary of State was a German immigrant with a very heavy German accent named Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger at age fifteen arrived to the United States along with his family from Germany in 1938. The Kissinger Family was Jewish and lived in Furth, Germany until the Nazis began to persecute the Jews. His father was a teacher and he was fired from his job because he was a Jew. The Kissinger Family was able to make passage to America and landed in New York. After settling in, Henry attended George Washington High School where he was an excellent student. His teachers advised he was a very able student but had a language difficulty. Henry and his family now had to learn English as their primary language instead of German. But they caught on to their new language and their new way of life in America.

In February 1943 Henry was drafted into the United States Army and took his basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina. And while at Camp Croft he became a naturalized United States citizen on June 19, 1943. After basic training he was sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana where he was assigned to Company G 335th Infantry Regiment 84th "Rail-splitter" Infantry Division. The infantry training given the 84th Infantry here in Louisiana was very tough. The 84th trained continuously throughout the Natchitoches, Sabine, and Vernon Parish area. The division was made up primarily of men from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois but I know of many men from our local area here in Louisiana who also was in this outfit. By 1944 the division had completed all its combat training here in Louisiana and was shipped to the European Theater of Operations.

Due to his heavy German accent and proficiency with this language he was assigned to the Military Intelligence Section of the 84th Division. Kissinger saw combat with the 84th Division and he volunteered for several dangerous intelligence details during the Battle of the Bulge. As the 84th advanced toward Germany, Kissinger, still only a private, was assigned as the administrator over the town of Krefeld, Germany. Kissinger restored order and removed all the Nazis from positions in the town government. He worked hard and managed to get all the city services up and going and got the town back on its feet. Due to his excellent work, Kissinger was re-assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He was a team leader and his and his team's biggest mission was to track down Gestapo officers and Nazi saboteurs in and around Hannover, Germany. For his excellent work on this mission Kissinger was awarded the Bronze Star.

After the war was over, Kissinger attended Harvard University under the G.I. Bill. After completing his college education and after graduating he began a long and very distinguished career as both an educator and statesman. Kissinger had several skills that had been brought out during his service with the Army and would be used exclusively as one of America's greatest statesmen. His administrative skills and organizational skills would be used to their full extend when he became Secretary of State during the Richard Nixon presidency. One of the greatest achievements made by Kissinger was the negotiations with the North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, and American governments that led to the Parish Peace Accords. This peace agreement brought about the withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam and the end of the war for America. Kissinger and his skills brought about this agreement. A long and terrible war that had cost American over 58,000 men and women came to an end.

Even though he is now up in age, Henry Kissinger, still keeps up with politics and speaks to various groups on political topics. And what a legacy this man has left us with his service throughout his life to his nation.

Yes, Henry Kissinger, another great man who came through Louisiana during World War II left his mark on America. As an ordinary soldier he came and trained right here in Louisiana and he never forgot his time here in our state. The 84th Division was one of the American Army's most well trained and combat ready divisions when it left Camp Claiborne. As I travel throughout the area and research the Louisiana Maneuvers that were from 1940 unto 1944 here in Louisiana, I have located many of the old bivouac sites of the 84th Division. I often wonder, was Henry Kissinger camped right where I was standing? Henry Kissinger, another great American who came and trained in our area and who became America's greatest statesman. Thank you Henry Kissinger for your devoted duty to America!

Pic0093 Main Gate and Bus Station at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana during World War II as it looked while Henry Kissinger was stationed there. (Robertson Collection)

Pic0606 Historical marker placed at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. (Robertson Collection)

Pic0993 Henry Kissinger pictured during his term as Secretary of State for the United States. (Robertson Collection)

Pic0934 President Richard Nixon pictured with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Robertson Collection)

Pic0935 Private Henry Kissinger was assigned to Company G 335th Infantry Regiment of the 84th Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, La. (Robertson Collection)

Pic0936 Henry Kissinger, pictured at right on back row, with other soldiers of his unit, with German children during World War II. (Robertson Collection)